Beyond Pacific Art Gallery Opens Its Doors In Australia

Joycelin Kauc Leahy - the brains and beauty behind Beyond Pacific Art..susa yu yet!

On Saturday, 17th March, 2012, a number of relatives, friends and associates gathered to celebrate the opening of the first PNG Art Gallery, in Brisbane, Australia which also features artwork and handicrafts from PNG and the Pacific Islands. The Gallery is set in lush green surroundings at 23 Lather Road, Bellbowrie, Queensland and is about 20 minutes from the city of Brisbane.

JKL in her element...

I was privileged and honoured to be invited to open the Gallery owned by none other than our own iconic Joycelin Kauc Leahy who is also the Curator of Pacific Storms.  In her Curatorial Statement for the 2011 Pacific Storms, she says, “The Pacific Storms Contemporary Art Exhibition explores the profound relationships that the people from these 27 states and territories have with their land and their environment. It examines some important aspects of land and culture, and the serious threat of destruction to these cultures…”

Some of the beautiful items in the Gallery. Part of the painting in the background is called 'Infinity' by Mason James Lee (2009).

 She goes on to state, “Dramatic climatic changes are the biggest threat to the indigenous peoples of the Pacific, who have contributed very little to the effects of climate change, yet are among its most hard-hit victims. Pacific Storms aims to give voice to the real concerns facing the Pacific Island countries and their people by integrating the message of Lusim Land (Lost Land) with contemporary visual, digital and performance arts that reflect the intangible heritage of the Pacific Islands.”

This is an exquisite woven mat which I think can be worn. I think it is from Vanuatu (I stand to be corrected).

For Joycelin the creation of this Gallery has been a labour of love. The labour – her blood, sweat and tears and the love – her deep commitment and passion for art, her faith and her zest for service to others.

Entrance of the Beyond Pacific Art Gallery is on the left...

She is visionary and this can be seen with the choice of this beautiful and quaint location in this scenic corner of Queensland. She shared her passion with others who responded positively and in doing so contributed to a shared and rewarding journey for herself as well as her family and the many others she helped and empowered her along the way.  

Baskets and carvings from around the Pacific Islands.

The rain was a small inconvenience as old friends met eachother and tried to catch up on all that they’ve missed in eachother’s lives over the years. We were there to support Joycelin and to celebrate with her and her family this momentous occasion and to share her happiness in the accomplishment of her mission.

One of Laben Sakale's signature etchings takes pride of place in the Gallery.

I am delighted that we have a Papua New Guinean who has achieved much in promoting PNG arts and culture in Australia and the Pacific. Joycelin is not one to sit and expect others to make things happen for her.  One of the most endearing features of our wonder woman Down Under is that she walks the talk!

Browsing through some of the books on offer at the Gallery.

I was in the presence of greatness as I listened intently to her frank and open yet gentle and friendly explanations on the various aspects of her journey as an artist and as a curator and now a proud gallery owner. What an awesome achiever, is our Morobean lass. She is a go-getter!

Some more beautiful items on display at the Gallery.

With Joycelin, what you see is what you get. That comes with years of learning, doing, helping and sharing her passion for art with others. As an artist herself she has conquered many mountains of discouragement and disappointment to reach her goals. But if I know Joycelin well, this is another beginning of the many exciting endeavours to come, blessing others wherever she turns her talents and attention to.

The tray is one of Joycelin's pieces of artwork with a beautiful lacquer finish.

She lives and breathes all things art and artistic and glows as she relates the many exciting and life-changing situations and people she has encountered along the way who have blessed her with positive contributions that drew her closer to her goals. Joycelin is indeed a mobile compendium of PNG and Pacific Art and an encyclopedia of PNG and Pacific Islands’ arts and iconic artists, herself included.

Delicate woven starfish with the top half of a cowrie shell in the middle.

In my brief remarks before declaring the Gallery officially open, I shared some observations which I think captures what Joycelin Leahy has achieved not for herself but for a country that is struggling to define itself. Its artworks and artists will lead the fray as it were providing many defining moments and this occasion was one of those moments without exception.

A PNG bilum in traditional design.

Firstly, I mentioned that PNG should be proud that one of her own has ventured into a somewhat familiar but new territory that is yet to appreciate the full potential of Papua New Guineans and what makes them tick. Through her passion, perseverance and pursuit of excellence she has succeeded.  I think that sums up the key ingredients for success – the three ‘P’s: passion, perseverance and the pursuit of excellence.

An open woven basket wine bottle rest...Pacific Island ingenuity!

Secondly, this Gallery is a manifestation of Joycelin’s artistic journey and meticulous nurturing of what she believes to be her destiny. One must acknowledge one’s artistic potential and those of others to achieve one’s dreams and aspirations because that is one’s own truth: the truth about who they are, and what they are about in this life.

A beautiful woven Fijian basket. Will compliment any formal or informal attire.

Thirdly, I said that PNG women artists are not very well promoted in PNG as well as overseas. The ones that get recognized are usually because a non-Papua New Guinean has recognized their artistic talent and helps them to showcase that.

A beautiful carving with pearl inlay...

Women artists will always be in the shadows unless they push themselves forward and into the limelight, their achievements will remain in the kitchen, bedroom and living rooms of their homes never to see the light of day – their artistic accomplishments.

Sam, JKL, yours truly, Ileen and Chris.

We need to recognize the struggles of these women and at the sametime draw on shining examples such as Joycelin Leahy – who is mother, father, artist, curator, trainer, mentor and many other roles – who become inevitably the role models of women artists wanting to accomplish their dreams through their art whether it’s painting, bilum weaving, handicrafts, sculpture, pottery, dance, music, poetry, photography and so on.

A buai (betel nut chewing) moment. No PNG or Pacific Island event will be complete without beloved buai moments like this one come rain or shine - with diehard buai lovers - Lorna, Kets and Kevin at the back.

We need to embrace the artistic talents of our women in PNG before we can promote them overseas because we need to know how they feel about their art, we need to feel their passion and we need to empower them to share their skills and natural talent and in doing so to promote PNG as the rich tapestry of artistic expressions that she is.

A stunning woven basket adorned with shells.

Finally, at the government to government level, I drew particular attention to a comment made to me by a very wise lady at the Queensland Museum on Friday afternoon. She said, we need to look for and focus on our similarities rather than on our differences in what we do and in how we want to engage with eachother. Our artwork and art are spiritual expressions that will bind us and sustain our bilateral relationship at every level. It may carry a hint of a political statement but to me it was the wisest thing I have ever heard in terms of what the future holds for artists and the arts and it augurs well for all of us if we think that way.

Family, friends and wantoks arriving for the Gallery opening. It was drizzling but not enough to dampen the spirits.

It may be a good omen that we were gathered to celebrate the opening of a new Gallery to add to the consciousness of the existence and vibrancy of PNG and Pacific Island art.  I decided to end it there as I looked into the brown, black and white faces of those who have gathered at Bellbowrie on this rainy afternoon to celebrate with Joycelin her tremendous achievement. Indeed, for in our shared love for art and artistic expressions we are one in spirit.

The press corps...Sean (ABC) and Kevin (Kundu 2) and Kets (OTAC on Sean's right)not put off by the rain.

It was then that I also realised what a wonderful birthday celebration this has been for me, the rainy downpour above and the wet soggy ground beneath notwithstanding.

Unique Suki baskets from the Middle Fly (Western Province). The Gallery has a wonderful collection of Suki baskets.

One of Joycelin’s beautiful watercolours titled “Basket Weavers of Suki” is featured in the All Nation’s Womens’ Group recently published book, ‘Artists, Cooks & Storytellers: Moments in Papua New Guinea’.

I share with my dear friend Joycelin this mantra, “A true artist is one who strives continuously, naturally with ease, and seamlessly to bring happiness to others, who grows with their experiences, shares in  their empowerment, and takes great delight in the positive changes in their lives brought about by small selfless interventions.”

Joycelin against Mason James Lee's 'Infinity' (Fiji).

Looking back over the event on Saturday and the wonderful gathering of relatives, friends and associates afterwards, I could only think, “Well done Joycelin, you’ve done it again for PNG”!

Salute, my dear friend…

Luk Save Art Exhibition 2010 – Rare Sightings Of Beauty

This, I thought captured an important event in village and community life.

I have always been fascinated by art as a child, especially paintings. One of my maternal uncles is a painter. I loved his paintings of island sunsets and local scenary with a coconut tree or trees in the foreground or the background are a common feature of  his works.

Over the past 30 years or so my interest in paintings has grown tenfold and I have started to do a little bit more than just look. I’ve start investing in some of these gorgeous pieces of creativity. Each time I see PNG artwork whether its oil on canvas or watercolours etc I feel sentimental and awestruck at the sametime. Something about them moves me. These are spiritual works. They come from the heart where the eye of any creator rests – I believe. It’s what inspires and motivates artists. A spiritual expression bubbling from a well-spring of imagination that forms a symbiotic relationship with one’s environment.

An explosion of colour depicting a familiar cultural feature of the PNG Highlands.

About  a month ago, I was alerted by a good friend overseas of the Luk Save Art Exhibiition at the Royal Papua Yacht Club in Port Moresby. She very kindly put me in touch with one of the organizers who called me about details of the Exhibition and where I could find it .

The everlasting frangipani...flower of Pasifika.

Well, I went along and although a small exhibition compared to others I have seen, I feasted my eyes on these creative works of PNG artists and artists who have been ‘born’ in PNG – meaning that their artistic pursuits have been awakened in this country.

Kinanale...the hibiscus...a hardy islander...

I felt privileged to have visited the Luk Save Art Exhibition and thank you PR for the contact and AA for the friendly welcome.

Unmistakably Morububuna...tugged persistently at my purse strings...the rest is history, I guess.

I wondered around for sometime admiring the works with my camera clicking away…you have to see them for yourself. These are rare sightings of beauty because there are not many exhibitions around that showcase these beautiful works but I am determined that this will change.

This etching is awesome...probably in someone's living room and if not? why not?

The different styles and themes are mind-blowing. Thank you to the Luk Save organizers for this great initiative and thanks to NASFUND for helping our PNG artists – PNG’s very own Picassos, Gaugins, Monets et al.

I think this was one of the winning entries.

One important thing I didn’t do was to take down the names of the artists so my very sincere apologies for this oversight. I’ll definitely do that next time. For a great write up on this Exhibition check out this blog.